Outlook Magazine - Fall 2022


Around the same time, he was restoring another Stearman for seven years. He sold it through a broker in 2004 to an Englishman whose father had been a Royal Air Force mechanic and worked on Stearmans during WWII. After the sale, Bates received a packet of infor mation from the anonymous buyer, including some 1970s rock music, and a phone number. Bates gave the man a call and soon learned that he was John Paul Jones, bass guitarist and one of the founders of the Hall of Fame rock group Led Zeppelin. “We had some good long talks,” Bates said, and they eventually met at a classic car and motorcycle show in England. Since retiring about a decade ago, Bates has continued to live out his passion. He owns Bates Biplanes LLC in Faribault, Minn., includ ing creating original “man cave” furniture out of unusable Stearman parts. He also restores antique and classic cars; his garage includes two Model A Fords, a 1929 Ford Street Rod with a 427 Chevy engine, a 1929 John Deere GP trac tor, a 1967 Corvette, a 1969 Chevelle SS and two classic Harley-Davidsons. Also, Bates and his wife, Paola Sandroni, a native of Milan, Italy, and a neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., sponsor the Larry and Mary Bates Transportation Scholar ship through the Stout University Foundation. The scholarship is named for his parents, both college graduates who “insisted” that he go to college. Not only did he choose UW-Stout to help him achieve his dreams, but his brothers, Mike and Steven, also are graduates. “I think Stout is a terrific school. A degree from Stout is the key that opens the door to your future,” he said.

W-Stout’s commitment to hands on lab and experiential learning is

part of the university’s DNA, the norm rather than the exception. Alum David Bates ’76 is an example of how the philosophy has been working for decades. Fifty years ago, Bates enrolled at UW-Stout primarily because he wanted to study some thing he loved. “I enjoyed cars, drag racing and airplanes. I wanted to work for one of the big car or truck companies,” he said. Four years later — including a semester off when he drove trucks and raced dragsters —he graduated with honors in vocational education, with a concentration in auto and diesel engines and a lot of know-how. His degree kicked off a career that included 18 years as a heavy truck field engineer for Ford Motor’s Twin Cities district and 16 years as ground service transportation director for Northwest Airlines at its Twin Cities airport headquarters. “You go to Stout to get a job. It was the key to my whole career,” he said. Bates lived a career that he loved, and the joy he found in his work spread to his hobbies. About a decade after graduating, he began a 16-year project to completely restore a Stea rman PT-17 biplane, the U.S. military WWII training plane. Bates’ plane earned a Grand Champion award in 2001 at the international Oshkosh EAAAirVenture.

Left: David Bates’ restored Stearman biplane won a national award, and another similar plane he restored was sold to rock and roll Hall of Fame member John Paul Jones, of the band Led Zeppelin. Bates owns Bates Biplanes in Faribault, Minn. His hobbies include restoring classic automobiles and motorcycles and creating unique furniture from spare biplane parts.


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